Ruth van Zorge graduated in Medical Anthropology and Sociology.
When it became time to choose a specific focus in my third year of Anthropology, I did not hesitate for a moment: Applied Medical Anthropology. It covers current health issues, how this is dealt with and how we can learn from this to improve the lives of people. I gained skills in executing applied research, and expanded my knowledge on health (system) theories, and sexual and reproductive health and rights and beside that I was lucky to do my Master's research for a Pilipino NGO. After my studies, I was engaged in a number of research programmes, both in the Netherlands and abroad. I started at the Medical Anthropology Unit. Then, I was able to join the JPO research programme (for young professionals) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a research with the Royal Tropical Institute.
After that, my CV was strong enough to apply for a research position with Artsen zonder Grenzen, for which I was approached through my network. At a certain moment I felt the urge to be more involved in the implementation of programmes. I was ‘just’ talking to people and analysing data behind my computer. Through my network I found work as a program manager with War Child Plan Netherlands and later with Rutgers WPF . Whenever needs assessments needed to be done, results ought to be researched, or progress reports had to to be written, I was quick to volunteer. Before I knew it, I was into PMEL and combining research and programming.
Currently, as a Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (PMEL) Coordinator at the international program of Rutgers WPF, my job perfectly combines two of the reasons why I studied Anthropology in the first place: the implementation of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) development programmes and research.
This is precisely what PMEL is about. It asks questions during the entire project cycle, from the development of a programme, until the final evaluation. During the design phase, I support my colleagues at the programme, the department and partner organisations in the South to get clarity about the objectives of new programmes: What is it that we want to reach? How do we want to reach it? With what result will we be satisfied? And how are we going to measure this?
During the implementation of programmes, PMEL officers are involved in keeping track of the progress within the program. Are we working according to plan, and why or why not? Do our activities lead to our planned results? What can we learn from our insights so far, and do we need to adapt or planning or strategies?
Measuring results in development programmes and in sexuality programmes is challenging. It requires creativity, skills, flexibility and pragmatism. Results are often stimulating, sometimes frustrating, but whenever good or bad, by reflecting on it, we learn and improve.
My advice to students would be: search opportunities during your studies to gain a diversity of experiences and academic courses, which makes you suitable to more jobs, and helps increasing your network, which is absolutely invaluable.